Whales play around New Zealand coast   14 Jul 2011

Whale watching is a year-round pastime in New Zealand but come winter, the popular activity takes on a more serious role, and this year a busy migration period is providing valuable data as well as entertainment.

New Zealand is known as the marine mammal capital of the world and with 15,134 kilometres of coastline there are numerous opportunities to spot mammals especially during their winter migration.

Two main species track through New Zealand at this time of the year - humpback and southern right whales.

Cook Strait survey
An official Department of Conservation (DOC) survey in Cook Strait, between the North and South islands, has shown a record number of humpback whales passing through the area this year.

Survey leader Nadine Bott said 62 humpbacks had been spotted by the team of ex-whalers, just three weeks into the survey compared to 47 for the entire survey period last year.

The 2011 survey, which began on 11 June, finished on Saturday (9.07.2011) July.

The annual poll assesses recovery in humpback whale numbers since commercial whaling ended in New Zealand in 1963. In 2005, only 18 humpbacks were recorded, and Bott says this year’s numbers are very encouraging.

Akaroa Heads
Tourism operators like Black Cat Cruises at Aakaroa, in Canterbury, have also reported increased sightings of humpbacks, which pass the company’s Banks Peninsula doorstep on their way north from the Southern Ocean.

The company says humpbacks were seen off the Akaroa heads three times in just one week delighting tourists including a group of 16 North American travel agents.

Banks Peninsula is on the direct route for Southern Ocean humpbacks as they migrate thousands of kilometres between low latitude winter breeding and calving grounds in Antarctica and sub-tropical waters of western and eastern Australia and Fiji.

Relaxed and playful
The humpback whales are well known for their spectacular breaching and beautiful complex songs and many spotted in the Akaroa Harbour have been relaxed and playful, apparently happy to be amongst the local natives - including Hector’s dolphins, the smallest and rarest dolphins in the world.

Nadine Bott said humpbacks seen in Cook Strait also appeared relaxed and playful. The whales had come in closer to shore than normal and were happy to rest and linger - more so than other years.

Clear weather and calm sea conditions had made it easier to spot whales this season and photos provided would be particularly valuable for research.

Southern right whales
The Department of Conservation has put out its annual call for members of the public to photograph and report any sightings of southern right whales, which are normally prevalent at this time of the year, and can be easily spotted because they come close to shore.

Photographs are a less invasive, less expensive way to provide information which helps with identifying whales and monitoring their patterns of movement.

Auckland and Otago universities are investigating how southern right whales move around New Zealand.

DOC says the most useful part of the southern right whale to photograph are the callosities - yellowish, raised rough patches of tissue on the head. Each whale has a unique pattern of callosities that only change very slightly over time.

Numbers down
Laura Boren, DOC’s national mammal co-ordinator says there have been fewer sightings of southern right whales in New Zealand waters this year, which is strange after high numbers during the 2010 migration season.

The reasons could be to do with unseasonal weather and the whales staying off-shore, but further answers could come to light after a New Zealand research team completes a study in the Auckland Islands over winter, says Boren.

The southern right whale migration season runs from May through to October each year. So far there have been sightings off Ruapuke Island and Dog Islands in Southland, and in Whareongaonga, south of Young Nick's Head on the western tip of the North Island East Coast region.

(100% Pure New Zealand)

Add a comment

Bookmark and Share

News

15,000 fewer people dependent on benefits

17 Apr 2014 News
New Zealand Government 15,000 fewer people dependent on benefits Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says the latest benefit ... more

Govt to establish Food Safety Science & Research Centre

16 Apr 2014 News
  Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce and Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye today announced that expressions of interest... more

Business

Air NZ says claims withdrawn as other airlines settle in Oz

17 Apr 2014 Business News
Article - BusinessDesk   Air New Zealand says claims withdrawn as other airlines settle over cargo cartel, seeks costs April 17 ... more

Genesis Energy soars on debut, other gen-taliers rise

17 Apr 2014 Business News By Suze Metherell
  Genesis Energy soars on debut, leading fellow energy companies higher April 17 (BusinessDesk) – Shares in the partially... more

Living

The Taite Music Prize: IMNZ announces this years winner

17 Apr 2014 Entertainment
The winner of the fourth annual Taite Music Prize 2013 is Lorde for her album ‘Pure Heroine’ released on Universal Music... more

3 Mile Limit Movie Continues to Win Awards in the U.S

15 Apr 2014 Lifestyle
New Zealand movie ‘3 Mile Limit’ has won Best Feature Film at both the North Hollywood and Charleston International Film... more

Property

NZ house values rise at slowest annual pace in 6 months in March, QV says

7 Apr 2014 Property
April 7 (BusinessDesk) – New Zealand property values increased at the slowest annual pace in six months in March as lower... more

Auckland landlords lead in capital gains

28 Mar 2014 Property
Three-bedroom houses in Glen Innes giving an annual capital gain of 18.9%, followed by New Windsor. Auckland landlords are making... more

Migration

New working holiday agreement between New Zealand and Croatia launched

28 Mar 2014 Migration
Citizens of Croatia aged between 18 and 30 will soon be eligible to apply for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa, giving them the... more

New Zealand immigration hits ten year high

28 Mar 2014 Migration
New statistics have shown net migration to New Zealand to be at a 10 year high, with China becoming the largest source of new... more

Travel

Chinese company to build $200M hotel on Auckland waterfront

16 Apr 2014 Travel & Tourism By Suze Metherell
  Company linked to one of China’s richest women to spend $200 mln on Auckland hotel April 16 (BusinessDesk) – Fu... more

SmartGate opens to arriving UK & US travellers

3 Apr 2014 Travel & Tourism
Customs Minister Maurice Williamson today announced SmartGate is now open to United Kingdom and American travellers on arrival. The... more

Sport

Dan Carter: All Blacks's goal is back-to-back World Cups

17 Apr 2014 Rugby By Oliver Brown
New Zealand No 10 is loving his sabbatical, including a trip to the Masters, however his only motive is to return fit and fresh for... more

Seeds March to Quarters at Skycity NZ Badminton Open

17 Apr 2014 Sport
TOP SEEDS CONTINUE MARCH TO QUARTER FINALS AT SKYCITY NZ BADMINTON OPEN Top seeds dominated in this morning’s 3rd round... more

Columns

Gordon Campbell: drone strikes & Judith Collins‘ last stand

17 Apr 2014 Opinion
Reportedly, US drone operators refer to their kills as "bug splat” - mainly because when the carnage is viewed on their... more

Gordon Campbell on the life & ACC work of Sir Owen Woodhouse

16 Apr 2014 Opinion
With the death of Sir Owen Woodhouse, the founding father of the Accident Compensation Scheme, New Zealand has lost one of the... more

Kiwi Success

BNZ names Anthony Healy as new CEO, replacing Thorburn

17 Apr 2014 Appointments
April 17 (BusinessDesk) – Bank of New Zealand, the local unit of Australia’s third-biggest mortgage lender, named the... more

Kiwi alpinist is finalist for prestigious award

26 Mar 2014 People
NZ Alpine Club Kiwi alpinist is finalist for prestigious mountaineering award New Zealand Alpine Club President John Cocks has today... more

Recruitment

Growth seen further lifting average wage by $7,500

15 Apr 2014 Recruitment
  The average annual wage is expected to increase by $7,500 to around $62,200 a year by 2018 if New Zealand achieves its ... more

NZ employment confidence lifts in 1st-qtr

31 Mar 2014 Recruitment
Article - BusinessDesk   NZ employment confidence lifts in 1st-qtr, current job opportunities seen less negative March 31 ... more